Avoiding Donald Trump’s pigsty

Message to Clinton voters about Donald Trump

Message to Clinton voters about Donald Trump

Playwright George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying:

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.
That’s good advice for Hillary Clinton. When she climbs into the mud with Donald Trump and his supporters, she gets dirty, and they seem to like it. For example, at a New York City fundraiser on Friday, Clinton said:
You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.
There’s plenty of evidence that a portion of Trump’s supporters really are deplorable. However, the problem with these remarks (which Clinton has since walked back a bit), isn’t their truth, it’s that Clinton shouldn’t be the one making them.

Let’s remember that Donald Trump trades in insults. He beat 16 Republican rivals in the primaries, many of them, such as Marco Rubio and Rafael “Ted” Cruz, by drawing them into and winning the insult game. Before that, Trump relished in smearing others with whom he had disagreements. For example, Trump has had a long-running feud with Rosie O’Donnell, in which he has publicly called her “fat” and “a loser” multiple times, among other things. So purely as a political strategy, it’s a bad idea to crawl into the mud with Donald Trump, an insult expert, and wrestle him. Such wrestling also causes the media and voters falsely to view Clinton and Trump as equals. Both candidates merely offend each other, both have flaws that the other can mock, etc.

The Clinton strategy in calling out some Trump supporters as racists, bigots and misogynists is understandable. Trump’s candidacy has unleashed an ugly wave of overt racism, sexism and intolerance that is usually kept under wraps. In revealing these people, Clinton is trying to drive a wedge into the Republican Party and appeal to Republican moderates, including those suburban “soccer moms,” by making them think twice about supporting Trump and thus being tarred as racist and intolerant themselves. It’s a concern that Trump himself is addressing, such as during his temporary “pivot” where, in the guise of talking to black groups, he was really trying to make moderate white Republicans more comfortable.

However, Clinton needs to be careful not to attack Trump’s supporters wholesale, even the hardcore intolerant ones. There are numerous campaign surrogates who could do that, if necessary. Clinton herself said during the Democratic Party primaries, to unfriendly young Bernie Sanders supporters, “they may not support me now, but I support them and we’ll work together.” Clinton correctly recognized that, as  president, she must represent all Americans, even ones who didn’t vote for her and who might even hate her. Likewise, one of Clinton’s strengths is her record of reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans, on children’s healthcare, assistance to New York after the 9/11 attacks, and more. Clinton’s plans, such as universal healthcare, a fairer tax code, fighting climate change and attacking ISIS, will help all these Americans, and she should say so.

In short, Hillary Clinton should play upon her strengths, which are her long experience in public service helping people, and her steady temperament. These are also her biggest contrasts with Donald Trump, who has repeatedly shown in this campaign that he is unfit to be president. Clinton should spend at least half her time touting her positive record and vision for America, the way she has done during some memorable speeches, such as her well-received Democratic National Convention speech accepting the party’s nomination. Then, of course, Clinton should point out how her record and plans are better than Donald Trump’s, and she should include plenty of criticism of Trump on the issues. Moreover, Clinton should point out Trump’s shortcomings which affect his character, judgment and fitness to be president, including his failure to provide his tax returns, his effusive praise for Russia and its dictator Vladimir Putin, his Trump University fraud allegations, his bribery scandals in Florida and Texas, his child rape allegations, his phony charitable foundation, his fake doctor’s note, and much more.

All of this can be done without Clinton attacking wholesale segments of voters who support Donald Trump, and especially, without turning the campaign into a contest of trading insults with Trump, the expert in that department.

Photo by H. Michael Karshis, used under Creative Commons license. https://is.gd/tTXfGs

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